Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Viva la Swedes!

I had a great time yesterday with Zach. We started off just running a few errands, but his pressing lack of a bed, coupled with the fact that Cleveland has woefully few furniture stores, led us on a cross-Houston adventure to the nearest Ikea center.

First we went to the post office, then had lunch together at the restaurant in town where Nathan worked. That was the first time I'd eaten there since he died and Zach has never been there, so it was interesting. The food was good and having Zach with me took the edge off. Then it was off to the local furniture store that had very little to choose from, so I got the brilliant idea to try Ikea. The prices are reasonable and I thought Zach would like the styles. We looked at some of their stuff online and Zach loved it, so we were off to the ginormous Swedish furniture metropolis an hour away. Plus traffic. Plus crappy Map Quest directions.

The Ikea store in Houston is a world unto itself. Seriously. It's HUGE. It's like an interior design shopping mall complete with it's own You-Are-Here store directory, restaurant, self-serve furniture warehouse, and a two-story kiddie land where parents can drop the kids off for a few hours while they go off to spend thousands of dollars.

Two fun-filled hours later, Zach was set. We talked a lot and looked at a ton of different furniture and interior room ideas. Somewhere between getting excited over finding the perfect bed, window treatments, and lighting and picking out a duvet with decorative throw pillows to match, Zach decided the whole thing was so gay he was going to have to do something manly when we left.

Note: Trying to load and haul a queen-sized mattress and bed frame on a very rolie handcart along with another full shopping cart is... we'll say just challenging. But I'm sure the old lady and two toddlers we ran over will be fine.

A couple of hernias later we finally made it to the checkout line, only to discover they don't take checks and the bank deposit made that day wasn't going to update until midnight. So we had to leave the bed frame, mattress, and comforter, which was probably a good thing because I don't think it was all going to fit in my SUV anyway, and it turns out the lamp set he got was missing a shade. We're going back today to get everything else and exchange the lamp set.

Yay us.

Did I mention in my last post pressing financial problems? Yeah.

My twisted response to possible financial ruin was to go spend a bunch of money on my returned Marine son's bedroom. I'll keep you posted. But just in case, I'm now soliciting possible places to bring my 4 kids, two cats, one dog, and a fish to live. Any takers?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Just checking in

I know, I know. I've been neglecting you guys. The problem is I really don't have much to say. I sit on the couch, back to scarfing Flaming Hot Cheetos and drinking beer.

Zach is home and has really fixed up his room, Nathan's old room. That's been very good because it's totally different and life is marching on.

Our financial situation sucks but I don't have the energy to address it.

I didn't win the writing contest I entered, which really sucks. But I'm still plugging away at Leon.

See? Boring. I haven't even been getting on the computer much lately because the kids are always on it. When does school start again???

Even as I write this post, Katie is hovering behind me, silently pressuring me to get off. Seven hours of labor without an epidural and this is the thanks I get.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A brief moment in time

Today I spent some quality time with Katie, my 12 year-old. She was holding a frozen ham and cheese Hot Pocket against her calf muscle, convinced that she was suffering from a muscle deteriorating case of botulism found in certain cans of chili and dog food.

We watched the movie "Practical Magic" together and I held her while tears spilled down her face. We talked about how sometimes anxiety attacks are a sign of grieving, and she quietly cried some more. Then we laughed together about holding a Hot Pocket to your calf muscle to a alleviate a muscle deteriorating form of botulism from canned dog food. She agreed that her imagined scenario was pretty unlikely.

We both feel better.

Now she's back to trying to con me into buying her a digital camera and harrassing me off the computer so she can check her MySpace.

Friday, July 20, 2007


It's been an emotional week. My dam broke on Wednesday and I'm not really sure why, although I suspect the kids' PS 2 game breaking pushed me over the edge. I cried a lot, but the knot in my stomach feels smaller now, so that's a plus.

I've begun editing the Leon Chronicles. It's going very well - I'm happy to be spending some time with Leon again. He's a lot of fun. I didn't realize I had 70 pages already. My goal is to have him finished by September.

Zach will be home for good next week. Well, until he finds a job and moves out again, but at least he won't be in the Marines. It's a bittersweet time for me because I thought I would have all five kids under the same roof again, but that's not ever going to happen.

I finished the S.O. article and it will be in next week's Advocate. It'll be kind of fun to see my name in the paper again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Getting sucked back into the Vortex

I paid a visit today to our local county annex which houses both the sheriff's office for our end of the world and the local justice of the peace. My intention was to thank the investigator in charge of Nathan's case - who is also a friend of mine from my reporter days - for his help and concern.

Well, I wasn't there two minutes before he tells me the toxicology report should be in some time next week.

Excuse me?

It seems that the JP, who is also a friend from my reporting days and who called me last week to tell me she had received the toxicology report and it was crystal clean, might have gotten her reports wrong.

Two hours and a few conflicting opinions later, it boils down to she believes she has Nathan's toxicology report and it's clean, and he believes the one she has is preliminary and the conclusive one will be in next week.

All this does is rip open my scab. I thought cleaning Nate's room out would be the final thing and it turns out it's not. Whether the stupid report comes back clean or positive for drugs, he's still dead. The thing is, for me, I'm back to not knowing - once again - if drugs played a part in his demise.

On a positive note, I was asked by the investigator to please start writing newspaper articles again on the S.O. cases that are open. It seems I'm their favorite reporter and they don't feel comfortable with anyone but me handling their stories.

That's a cool feeling.

We'll see what happens.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I've never liked roller coasters, but I love happy endings

It has been a roller coaster series of days.

Yesterday I went and picked up my friend Nicole to spend the night and help me clean out Nathan's room. Zach will be home in two weeks and we all agreed it will be easier for him if the room is a blank slate.

Nicole is in the process of embarking on a new life. At the tender age of 41, with her children grown and relatively self-sufficient, she is quitting her day job. She plans to travel with her husband and work on a writing career. We celebrated together over dinner and I felt some of my joie de vivre return. It felt good.

This morning reality set in. I procrastinated through two cups of coffee before Nic finally put her foot down and we started on Nathan's room. It didn't take long for me to get sidetracked making a collage of Nate's photographs that were on his wall. She plowed on like a trooper and allowed me to work on the collage while she finished the heavy duty drudgery. We both knew I couldn't handle it.

The collage is beautiful and now hangs in the hallway with the rest of our family pictures. The room is cleaned out.

It was a traumatic day for me.

Now for the next upswing. Nicole mentioned to me that her favorite piece that I've written is an action adventure called "The Leon Chronicles." A piece that I, of course, have never finished. In fact, I haven't even looked at it in three years and thought it was lost with all my other stuff when my computer crashed a while back.

Well, I vaguely remembered seeing it on a floppy disk somewhere in my office. So, for hours I tore apart everything looking for this disk - and found it! Except when I tried to open it, the stupid thing was corrupted. I kept digging through junk and ran across an old CD from my writers' group days. Hoping against hope, I stuck it in my computer and guess what - not only was Leon on it, but all of my old documents and a lot of my pictures I thought were lost forever!

So in honor of my victory celebration, I am posting one of the only poems I've ever written. It falls under the category of "Write What You Know." Here goes:

Ode to a Commode

Oh vestibule of waste disposal
So shiny white,
So cold and noble.

Care you that I scrub and slave,
Crud and scum and urine brave
To keep your surface shining?

I think not.

Oh cruel, indifferent taskmaster;
Through incessant use, the odd disaster,
Your relentless flushes evermore
Keep me tied to this endless chore.

Friday, July 13, 2007

No matter what you perceive

The toxicology report came back yesterday and Nathan was as clean as he said he was. There were no drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of his death. Which is as wonderful as it is horrible.

Now his death seems even more senseless. We can't blame it on drugs. He had to have just pushed his body too far, holding his breath until he passed out. And God saw fit to keep him. Which is not senseless, just what was best for Nate.

What this leaves me with is the uncomfortable awareness that I don't always know what I think I do. It also gives me the opportunity to change the way I view things. Definitely with a more open mind.

Nobody likes to face their own fallibility. We all like to think there is a point at which we know certain things are true, a point at which we are absolutely right. But sometimes we're wrong. And sometimes we'll just never know all the answers. That's just the way it is, baby.

I may lose faith in myself, but I don't ever for a second lose faith in God.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


I'm back.

I've been at my mom's house again since last Saturday because my Aunt Peggy was visiting from Alabama. She left this morning and now I'm back at home. The visit with my mom this time was not as comforting. Five days is too long. And everything I took with me smells like stale cigarette smoke.

I was here for about 10 minutes when I got a call from the funeral home to pick up Nathan's death certificates. They look just like a birth certificate. His cause of death is listed as accidental death due to asphyxiation by drowning.

DeDe's surgery was Monday. They did a partial biopsy and took part of her lymph nodes and she's recovering. Step one in a long road ahead.

Today was not good, emotionally, with the exception of a few precious hours.

I have to get back into some kind of groove. This aimless wandering is driving me insane. We'll see how tomorrow goes.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


In all the ups and downs over the past month, Tuesday was a very bad day for me. It was probably as close to having an emotional breakdown as I ever want to come. I went back to my mom's house in Houston for a few days and I feel better now. Funny how moms can do that for you.

DeDe had her MRI today and the cancer hasn't spread to the bone, so that's good. It turns out she has cancer in her breast - not breast cancer - and that's bad. But it hasn't spread to her other breast and all her major organs look healthy. Her partial masectomy is this Monday, then it will be at least six months of radiation and chemotherapy.

Zach is back at Camp Pendleton to wait out his time until he gets out for good in August. I can't believe four years have flown by so fast, but I'm greatly relieved he'll be home again soon. So are the kids.

The kids are experiencing the same emotional waves I am, but they express their pain differently, obviously. Savannah, my seven year-old, seems to be handling things the most healthfully. She watches Nathan's memorial video at least once a day and says things like, "It's okay to cry, we cry because we miss him," and "This is a loving memory of Nathan." She laughs at some of the pictures that flash by, and sometimes she cries silent tears without trying to hide them. When I watch it with her, I catch her from time to time observing me to see what my reaction is. I'm usually smiling because they are happy memories, but sometimes I cry. Silent tears without trying to hide them.

I can tell when a sad wave hits both Joseph and Savannah. They become emotional and cry over things that would have seemed insignificant to them only a month ago. I hold them and comfort them and tell them to cry it out and they will feel better. And they do.

Savannah has become more aware of death and things that might make you die, so anxieties have cropped up over issues like muscle aches and sore throats and spider bites. She is very verbal about her fears, so it's easy for me to explain them away and she happily goes about her business. Joseph is nine years old and not so verbal. I give lots of hugs and ask him if he wants to talk about things, but he never does. Neither does Katie. So I can only trust the process and put out the brush fires.

But I think they are doing okay.

Monday, July 02, 2007

"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you."

Wow. I just found that quote today on one of my writers' newsletters. How fantastically appropriate.

I love it.

My lifestyle lately has been a little self-destructive. I've been drinking a lot. Not enough to make an ass of myself, but enough for me to realize I've been using it for a crutch.

I had decided to turn my efforts toward writing when I found the above quote by one of my all-time favorite writers in the world, Ray Bradbury. And it just makes sense.

So that's what I'm going to do.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


There are some truly self-centered, vile people in the world. And they're not all terrorists, although they would like to think they are.

I spent the night with my mom the other day, and brought a true friend home with me to spend the night. I took her back to her house today. We had a great visit and it refreshed me.

Note to vile, self-centered person: Your husband chooses not to believe the truth and I no longer care, so consider you secrets safe. You have nothing to fear from me. Only from your maker.